Sunday, April 4, 2010

Connie Dion

I was checking the online Detroit Free Press newspaper to see if Jimmy Howard was getting the start today and discovered Chris Osgood is getting the nod. This snaps Howard's streak of consecutive games at 25. Not since 1991/92 and Tim Cheveldae with 29, has a Wing 'tender started more games in a row. I also learned that Howard falls one shy of the Red Wing rookie mark for consecutive starts. Now, I definitely remember Tim Cheveldae, but not Connie Dion the rookie who started 26 straight games in 1943/44.

After my Connie Cobb story of earlier in the week, the name Connie jumped out at me. I had to check him out. Dion was one of the many war-time era stop gap measures employed throughout the league (see Steve Buzinski). The difference was that Dion was actually not half bad. He signed as a free agent in Jan. 1944 after Detroit has used Jimmy Franks, a 35 year old Normie Smith and a 17 year old Harry Lumley.

The 5 foot, 4 inch and 140 pound Dion proceeded to play the remaining 26 games of the year going 17-7-2 with a 3.08 GAA. He would finish second in the NHL in wins and fourth in GAA, not bad for a little guy who signed halfway through the year. Dion recorded his first and only NHL shutout stopping nine whole shots versus the Rangers in the most lopsided shutout in history, 15-0.

Dion and the second place Wings were upset in five games in the 1944 semi-finals by the Black Hawks but he posted a respectable 3.40 average. He played a dozen games the following season before young Harry Lumley began his Hall of Fame career in earnest. Dion would continue his career in the AHL were he starred mainly with the Buffalo Bisons. He posted a record of 181-129-40, 3.22GAA and 20 shutouts.

Connie Dion's hometown of Asbestos Quebec named an arena after the goaltender. To this day there is a Connie Dion hockey tournament in Asbestos.

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